Terms of Art for the Heart

A term of art is a word when used in a professional context has a very precise meaning. I’ve been reading a lot about game mechanics and theory, inspired by Amy Jo Kim’s terrific talk given recently at Linkedin. Right now I’m half-way through A Theory of Fun by Raph Kosterner. It’s an odd, rambling book, and most it is familiar to anyone who’s been doing interaction design for awhile. But I do notice that game designers talk about emotion much more than we do, and they are crafting new terms of art and taxonomies that could be useful to anyone doing interactive (and particularly social) design.

For example, on page 92, Koster lists “social interactions,” and four out of six are emotions. I recognize those four from holiday family card games.

  • Schadenfreud Koster defines this as “the gloating feeling you get when a rival fails at something.” AKA the pleasure when someone else suffers.
    The game my family plays at holidays is called Shanghai Rummy, and part of the game’s goal is to go down first leaving as many cards in your rivals hands as possible. It’s a game like golf, where the low score is the best.  There as a special glee you get as you watch the losers publicly count their score and you see they have face cards (10 pts) Aces (15 pts) or the wild card, 2’s (20 pts). Even if you don’t win, there is a joy you feel in seeing someone suck worse than you do. It’s schedenfreud it its finest.
    Can this come into play in social networks? We don’t have to explicitly craft it, but comparing scores in the interface may allow this emotion to manifest (as well as others such as shame, rivalry, jealously, pride) and competitive activity should then ensure. For example, a list of most stories shared, most complete profile, most viewed slides will engender emotion: if there can be a winner, there can be a loser. Rather than overarching lists that encompass the entire userbase, maybe just showing a user’s network’s stats might engender a more personal friendly rivalry.
  • Fiero “the expression of triumph when you have achieved a significant task (pumping your fist, for example)”
    Nicole Lazarro talks a lot about this in her models of types of gaming, and uses fiero to describe “hard fun.” At our card games, this is the gleeful “going out” as you lay your cards on the table into sets, usually gloating the whole time. I’d say in Shanghai Rummy, first we have the Fiero, then we get the Schadenfreude.
    In social networks, statistics and leaderboards provide the feedback needed to achieve fiero. If you think about it, one of the most critical tasks to make a social network valuable is to build the social network, but this is often just a boring (and potentially socially dangerous) task of uploading your email contacts, or trolling through friend’s friendlists. Just as Linkedin made the tiresome profile creation more satisfying with the completeness meter, can we game the creation of a good true network or satisfaction results?
  • Naches “the feeling you get when someone you mentor succeeds.” When my cousin was old enough to join the family card game, everyone mentored her. No one ever took join in her failures, and when she did succeed there was a collective pride. Later, of course, there was an interest in crushing her like you do the rest.
    Again, in social networks we focus on contacts as if they were datapoints, mere email addresses uploaded. But what if we can build in feedback and contact mechanisms so that when one user invites another to join a new network, they can both give advice and monitor the progress of the newbie?
  • Kvell “the emotion you feel when bragging about someone you mentor.” In a game “I taught her that!”
    On a social network? I’m thinking badges, or network scores… something that says that the people you choose are someone superior.

The other two I won’t go into deeply, but mention for the sake of completeness:

Grooming behavior: Consider tagging on Flickr and Facebook, and the “Wall” — when you can manipulate objects in other’s space, the act of doing so shows caring and connection.

Feeding other people: This one is a stretch for gaming and social networks, but I’d say gifting is the closest equivalent, though it doesn’t have the same social punch as a formal meal.

Gaming design is much more in tune with the emotion range we humans experience and it serves them well. can we design functionality thats sole purpose is eliciting emotion?